Volunteerism Helps Good Causes And Careers

ISU students visit annual volunteer fair.
ISU students visit annual volunteer fair.

On the flight back from Florida last night, I thought about the importance of engaging in nonprofit organizations during college and early stages of your career. Not only does it provide real-world experience but it also builds your network.

That point was driven home as I spent the long weekend with fellow board members of the Indiana State University Foundation to discuss accomplishments and challenges facing our alma mater. Each board member is involved in multiple other nonprofit causes ranging from after-school programs to zoos. But we all were more than a little impressed when President Dan Bradley said ISU is #1 in Washingtonian Magazine’s ranking of 281 national universities in the category of community service participation and hours worked by students, faculty and staff.

Following the board meeting, I talked with Dr. Bradley who said the entire university population logged over a million hours of community service last year. That’s an impressive accomplishment for 11,500 students and 1,500 faculty and staff. Do the math, and it annually nets out to about 100 hours per person. President Bradley’s enthusiasm for volunteerism explains why Indiana State ranks #2 in the country for the level of university support for service learning. The program is operated by Nancy Rogers, associate vice president of Community Engagement and Experiential Learning.

After talking with President Bradley, I followed up with several young staff members to learn more about the university’s obvious culture of community engagement. It became apparent that the university plays a major role in every aspect of the city of Terre Haute, although many also devote significant time to state boards and professional associations.

Staff cited personal commitment to a variety of organizations, and said they appreciate the university’s support which includes the equivalent of two paid days off each year for volunteer activities.

Kim Block Kunz, director of communications for the Foundation, picks different organizations each year where she devotes her volunteer time. This broadens her insights into a variety of organizations. Another impressive staff member, Roland Shelton, vice president for constituent relations, listed seven nonprofits in which he is actively involved, including the Public Works Board (City of Terre Haute), Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Adviser, and board member of Boys & Girls Club, Negro League Baseball Museum and Vigo County School Superintendent Board. He also serves as a mentor for the ISU Mentoring Assistance Program (MAP).

During the board dinner, nobody at our table seemed surprised with the ISU community engagement ranking and they each recalled their own college involvement activities and how they set the foundation for their current success. We all agreed that engaging in nonprofit governance and financial discussions makes you more comfortable with such business conversations in future employment situations where it really counts towards career progression.

In college, I may have been overly involved in extra-curricular activities, but not a day goes by now that I don’t recall memories and learnings from those experiences that greatly influenced me over the years. Simply put, volunteering is good for your community, your career and your life.

4 thoughts on “Volunteerism Helps Good Causes And Careers

  1. My name is Katelyn Brady, and I am a student at Southeast Missouri State University. Being a student athlete at Southeast, I am required to fulfill a certain amount of community service hours. While I have enjoyed the experience of giving back to organizations such as Feed My Starving Children and the Humane Society, I have often wandered if future employers are concerned with where you volunteer at? By this I mean would someone who has volunteered at organizations with more business or public relations background be put above me because of the relevance of the nature of their volunteerism?

    1. I’m glad to hear about SEMO’s focus on volunteerism. You raise a good question. While I encourage individuals to devote their free time to nonprofit organizations where they have a personal interest and commitment, those who work in public relations roles do get more notice than those who do other sorts of volunteer efforts. Nonprofits are excellent resume builders, so try to help on the PR front–even if for only a portion of your volunteer assignment. Most organizations will try to make that happen for dedicated volunteers.

  2. My name is Megan Keesee and I am a student at Southeast Missouri State University. I know at my university, most campus organizations, sports teams, and Greek organizations are involved in ongoing volunteer efforts and community service. How can we encourage those that may not be involved in these kinds of organizations to get involved in community efforts as well?

    1. Unfortunately, a majority of college students never volunteer. They focus on required courses, R&R and fun. So you need to answer the question most unengaged students ask: What’s in it for me? Campus organizations need to underscore the fun aspect of what they do, plus it is worthwhile to track and recognize the success of graduates who were involved.

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